Walla Walla Co. blueberry farm fined $350K after manager raped, assaulted employees for years

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Great Columbia Berry Farms, a blueberry grower based out of Walla Walla County, has to pay $350,000 after one of its managers sexually harassed and raped employees for several years.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson made the announcement Monday, saying that one of the company’s managers, Jose Luis Contreras Ramirez, raped at least one worker and sexually harassed several women that worked under him at the farm. He would also threaten or fire these women if they spoke out against him.

This conduct happened between 2012 and 2019, ending with Contreras’ arrest for charges of sexual assault. The complaint against Great Columbia Berry Farms asserts that the company knew or had to have known of Contreras’ behavior, but did nothing to address or stop it.

“Companies that know or should know that powerful managers are harassing and assaulting their employees, but do nothing to stop it, bear responsibility,” Ferguson said. “Agricultural workers deserve to be heard — and they deserve a safe work environment free from abuse.”

The company is now barred from rehiring Contreras, and must implement new complaint procedures for employees to report harassment, discrimination and retaliation, as well as adopt annual training and anti-harassment policies.

The $350,000 will be given as compensation to the women harmed by Contreras and Great Columbia Berry Farms.